About Mexican Cheeses




This guide includes most of the commonly found Mexican cheeses as well as other Hispanic cheese used in Mexican Cooking.



FRESH, MOIST CHEESES


PANELA

Adapted from a Greek basket cheese, the milky and mild cheese has a texture similar to high-moisture mozzarella; softens with heat but does not melt; use in cooked dishes such as enchiladas or crumble over tacos or chili; can be sliced and fried. It is also served as a snack (bontana). Substitute: Ricotta

QUESO BLANCO

Mild, meltable cheese similar to Monterey Jack. Substitute: Monterey Jack

QUESO FRESCO

Translates to "fresh cheese". The U.S. version is soft, moist, milk and crumbly cheese for sprinkling over enchiladas or black bean soup or crumbling onto a salad. Sadly, most the versions in the U.S. do not melt very well. In Mexico, the cheese is used to stuff chiles or for quesadillas. Substitute: Feta

REQUESON

Fresh, mild, curd-like cheese similar to ricotta. Used in filling and desserts. Substitute: Ricotta




SOFT AND SEMI-SOFT CHEESES



ANEJO

Aged queso fresco. Use crumbled or grated. Substitute: Romano

ASADERO

Also called queso quesadilla because of its usefulness in that dish. Usually sold sliced, asadero melts well and can be used for nachos or burgers. Substitutes: Fontina, Monterey Jack, Muenster or Teleme (referred to as a "poor man's brie" from California)

CHIHUAHUA

Melting cheese, similar to a mild cheddar or Monterey Jack; also known as queso menonita because it was introduced by the Mennonites. Use in queso fundido, chile con queso, cheese sauces or casseroles. Substitutes: Muenster, Medium Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mild Cheddar

OAXACA

Mild, firm, slightly tangy cheese similar in texture to mozzarella. Typically braided and shaped into a ball. It "strings" like mozzarella when heated and can be used in quesadillas and other cooked dishes. Look for a spicy version too which is flavored with cherry pits. Substitutes: Mozzarella or Armenian String Cheese.




SEMI-FIRM AND FIRM, DRY CHEESES


CHONTALENO AND CHONTALENO AHUMADO

Dry, grating cheeses, "ahumado" means smoked.

COTIJA

Salty, dry grating cheese, sometimes referred to as Mexican Parmesan. Use as topping for beans, Caesar salads and many other savory dishes. Softens but does not melt. Substitute: Parmesan

ENCHILADO

Literallly means "flavored with chile"; similar to cotija anejo but coated with mild chile or paprika. Substitute: Feta

MANCHEGO

Mellow, firm cheese similar to a slightly aged Jack, with some nutty character; melts well; use in cooked dishes or as a snacking cheese. Manchego is actually a cheese from Spain. Substitute: Pecorino Romano

QUESO CRIOLLO

One of the few Mexican "yellow" cheeses very similar to Munster. This is a gratable cheese. Substitute: Munster

CREMA

Not really a cheese but a dairy staple in Mexican cuisine. Crema is a heavy cream similar in taste to créme fraiche. Thicker versions of crema are used as additions to sauces and the thinner crema is used as a topping for tostadas, tacos, and enchiladas. Substitute: Créme Fraiche, or make your own.